The Truscott Arms W9

For those unaware, the Truscott Arms opened two weeks ago, in the space formerly occupied by Idlewild. Keen readers will remember I reviewed the Idlewild burger back in January, concluding it was an ‘expensive disappointment’. Two weeks later, Idlewild closed down. Thankfully it was due to theatre chap Andrew Fishwick buying the pub, and completely revamping it into the Truscott, rather than the vast influence wielded by this blog (ahem).

I was at the opening night on the 25th with locals @gabrielladriver, @steph_gay, and @richardgay, and managed to have a quick chat with Andrew about (what else?) their burger. I was impressed already. He explained that their chef, Etienne, had settled on a 80% Aberdeen Angus and 20% Wagyu beef ratio, with a brioche bun (good call I said, robust), and only two toppings – foie gras or bone marrow. A very bold move. The chips would also be cooked in Wagyu beef fat. You can see how I’d be excited.

Image

I went on Friday lunchtime with local jewelleryologist (she assures me it’s a word) and luxury PR, @jujurowe. The burger’s on the ‘bar menu’ at a North-West London record price of £14 (and that’s without the toppings. Being a man ‘in-between jobs’, I declined the foie gras or bone marrow extras at £5 each). Juliet ordered medium-rare and I went with medium. The (lovely, and clearly very passionate) chef himself came to explain why medium-rare wouldn’t be possible (the burger would just fall to pieces), but even, so mine was definitely well done.

Anyway, the burger itself is very good. Clearly good quality meat, well-seasoned, and satisfyingly crisp on the outside. I would have probably preferred a slice of cheese on it, although I’m sure Etienne would disagree. The brioche bun was delightfully light (a mere 45g I’m told) yet held together perfectly, something many menus seem to struggle with.

IMG_00000307

The chips, however, were the highlight here. I can’t print what Juliet said about them, but let’s just go with exceptional, and certainly some of the best chips I’ve ever tasted. Etienne explained they were triple cooked in Wagyu fat (something he’d learned when working for Heston Blumental), resulting in very light, crispy, and soft chips. Personally I wasn’t so keen on the dipping sauce, a sort of tomato and basil affair that was a bit too thin to make any impact, but the chips certainly didn’t need this.

In a nutshell, a very good, if slightly minimalist, and very expensive burger. The service was great throughout, and I’ll definitely be back to try the rest of Etienne’s menu and wish Andrew and co the best of luck – it’s a great new venue.

Score

Me: 7

Juliet: 8

Total: 7.5. Very good burger, if expensive. Good service, nice new pub addition to W9.

Red Squirrel W9

This week’s review took us the Red Squirrel in Maida Vale, at which I arrived a solid 25 minutes late thanks to a complete Bakerloo line fail. Thankfully, notable locals @richardgay and @dext37 were on good form, and enjoying a warming ale as I arrived. The Red Squirrel is owned by Faucet Inns (who now also own the Warrington) and they conveniently offer two burgers for just £10 on a Thursday evening.

IMG-20130131-00068

Because of the open-plan kitchen in the middle of the pub, when you walk through the door a wonderful charcoal grill smell slaps you around the face, much like the Ibizan heat when you step off a Ryanair plane peak-summer. Our initial dilemma (two burgers for £10, three people) was easily solved by ordering four burgers: two medium rare, one medium, and one ‘test’ of well done.

And they were good. Medium rare and medium all cooked to perfection, although the well done was a tad underdone. The meat was tender, tasty and moist (a “darn good burger” said Dexter). The strong cheddar was a good touch, the bacon was lovely and charcoal grilled too, and although the caramelised onions weren’t for me, the boys both spoke highly of them.

IMG-20130131-00069

The bun was charcoal grilled (sense a good theme here?), and was strong and held its own. The chunky coleslaw (yes coleslaw, not ‘slaw’ – bonus points from me there, Red Squirrel) was decent and a nice addition. The chips (cooked three times as Dexter noted from stalking the open-plan kitchen) were salty, soft, and crisp, and liked by all of us. In fact, the only negative here was the burgers arrived a little cold.

IMG-20130131-00071

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The lovely waitress from Pamplona deserves a mention, as does Dexter’s question shouted straight after I spoke to her in fluent Spanish, “WHY DON’T YOU HAVE A GIRLFRIEND??”. The staff were all friendly, and I was impressed with the pub itself.

By this point, having eaten a burger and a half now, the novelty of the lovely charcoal grill smell was beginning to wear off. As the smell stuck to my delightful blue cardigan, it also followed me all the way home, where I mainlined some Innocent smoothie as burger penance.

This isn’t a gourmet offering, but at £10 is very decent, and already beats other locals. On a Thursday, for a fiver however, this is an absolute bargain, and I’d recommend locals to give it a shot.

I’ll be back. And not just to practice my Spanish.

 

Score

Me: 6.5

Dexter: 7.5

Richard: 7

Total: 7, solid burger, nice pub, absolute bargain on a Thursday.

Idlewild W9

Pub and burger number three led us to Idlewild, in W9. When giving feedback, I was taught always to start with the positives, so… it’s a lovely pub inside. Sadly, that’s probably the highlight of this review.

I was joined on this occasion by media lawyer @taylortim, and we both ordered exactly the same – medium cooked, with blue cheese. The burger is about as much as you’d want to pay for a pub, £13.50, so we were expecting seriously good things. Unfortunately, due to “a problem with the printer sending the order upstairs”, it took a whole 50 minutes for two medium cooked burgers to arrive. Not a great start. Despite also ordering both with blue cheese, confusingly, one came with Emmental.

photo (3)

Back to the positives – both burgers came medium cooked, as we asked, something which has proved to be an issue with chefs so far. That’s about it though. The burger itself was bland, tasted predominantly of pepper, and was pretty gristly. The bun was woefully inadequate (“it’s basically 6 for 50p at Tesco”), falling to pieces almost immediately. The chips were under-cooked, so much so that the larger ones were like eating a stick of rock.

The best part for me was the Stilton cheese (hard to mess up, admittedly), whereas the Heinz ketchup did it for Tim. photoThis would have been a fairly disappointing meal for £7, but at £13.50 it’s unforgivable. To the bar’s credit, they gave us a free pint for the 50 minute wait (and it was a nice pint), but this did nothing to improve what was an expensive disappointment. Stay away, burger fans.

Score

Me: 5.5/10

Guest reviewer, Tim: 5/10

Total: 5.25/10, an expensive disappointment.

Lord’s Tavern restaurant NW8

After a local suggestion, pub number 2 was the Lord’s Tavern (yes, NW8) restaurant, accompanied by Northern meeja lass @louise1wallis and new-to-London Danish girl, and hard-core burger fan, Lara.

Given the former’s tendency to check her phones every minute or so, I insisted on arriving that we play the phone game, whereby all phones are placed in a pile face-down in the centre of the tableIMG_9743. Anyone caught checking theirs pays the bill at the end. I could visibly see sweat pouring down her face for the first 15 minutes or so, and she kept instinctively reaching for her bag. Soon after, conversation flowed, everyone was relaxed, and it was actually bloody lovely not to be slave to the vibrations and flashing. It almost felt quite naughty and decadent, like giving a big two fingers to the rest of the world, as we feasted on burgers and wine, and just enjoyed each other’s company.

foto (1)

 

So, the pub itself is lovely, clearly a bit of an undiscovered gem amongst most locals. As for the burgers? Very average, I’m sad to say. The girls’ were delivered fine, but as the waiter was placing mine down, the chips fell off the tiny platter board onto the floor and my suit jacket. As he got it onto the table, the burger then quite comically fell off as well. Mistakes happen. It was quickly replaced, and they’ve certainly not been marked down because of it (although the thin wooden platter really could do with a re-think. It’s the burger equivalent of trying to land a 747 at City airport).

Let’s start with the chips, as we all agreed: they were excellent (“cute little chip pan too!”). Unfortunately that’s all we can say as enquiries as to how they were made didn’t get very far, “Erm in a fryer? I’m not a good chef,” said the waiter. As for the burger itself: decent quality, tasted OK, lacked seasoning. Also, inconsistent. Despite not asking how we’d want them, mine arrived well done, Lara’s medium, and Louise’s medium rare (with blood soaking through to the bun, which was a big turn-off). The cheese (Westcombe cheddar) was sparse and wasn’t a great choice as it didn’t add much to the burger. They forgot the onion rings, which were alright, but very greasy. The girls lamented the lack of gherkins (I’m quite happy without), and Louise was most unimpressed with the ‘home-made relish’: “no, that’s just Heinz ketchup”.

foto

 

IMG-20130123-00065

Lara was left unsatisfied, wanting more. “It wouldn’t make a grown man full” she exclaimed, immediately after I’d said I was pretty full. I’m putting it down to language issues. The same could be said of a post-prandial game of Trivia. Understanding “What is Cilla Black’s real name” as “what is a silverback’s real name?”, she replied, quick as a flash, “a gorilla”. The girls’ laughter managed to silence the pub (as well as another misunderstanding around gherkins, which is most certainly not printable here).

I don’t want to come across too harsh on the Lord’s Tavern here, because it really is a nice pub, and I’ll definitely be back. (We were all also far too excited to discover genuine Molton Brown in the toilets). But we can safely say, even at this early stage, that they don’t serve the best burger in north west London.

(As a PS, if you’ve never played the phone game, please, do. Give it a try. It hurts, but it’s worth it.)

Score

Me: 6.5/10

Guest reviewers, Louise and Lara: 6.5/10

Total: 6.5/10. Lovely pub, very average burger.

The New Inn NW8

(As this is the first post, please do have a look at the ‘About’ page first!)

After its recent glowing review in Shortlist Magazine, I decided the first burger on the list would be the New Inn’s, in St John’s Wood. In their search for the UK’s best burger, Shortlist gave the New Inn a very respectable four stars, saying “Their burger is exquisite. The patty is made up of highest grade beef mixed with beef jus, mustard, salt, eggs and fresh double cream… It’s first pan-fried in butter then chargrilled with truffle essence. A splendid array of condiments come with your burger, as do crispy, grease-free fries to dunk.” You can see why I was keen to try it so quickly.

With the parents visiting last weekend, it seemed like the perfect time to acquaint them with the neighbourhood. We had a leisurely (bracing) walk across Primrose Hill and then sought solace at the New Inn. It was just after midday, and no-one was eating, but we managed to grab the last three burgers in the kitchen. There would have been tears otherwise, after so much anticipation.

You have the choice of three cheeses: cheddar, gruyere, or blue; and then either mushrooms or bacon as an extra topping. The burger itself was good, very good, beautifully juicy and tender meat, charcoal grilled, but not quite as good as I was expecting. The only criticism of the burger itself was that it came well-done, when I’d asked for medium. I feared my expectations may have been set too high though.

IMG00020-20130112-1312

The bacon was lovely, but I think they gruyere was a poor choice as it added little to the taste. Mother, a cheesemonger by trade, opted for blue cheese and this was definitely a wise choice (yes, I tried it. Purely in the interest of the wider group, you understand).The chips were fine (wrapped in newspaper, a nice touch), but we were a bit disappointed by the extras, only two onion rings. Some coleslaw (or ‘slaw’ as it seems to be universally called these days) would have been nice.

IMG00021-20130112-1313

The pub’s lovely, and the service was first-class throughout. We were given some free ‘lemon drop’ cocktail shots afterwards (Twitter perk…), which were genuinely delicious, and the waiter helpfully told us how he made them.

I actually went back to the New Inn just three days later, and I found out they’d just changed chefs a few days earlier, which explains this ‘new’ burger and the lack of extras. This did reassure me somewhat – it was a very good burger, but I wouldn’t agree with Shortlist’s praise for what was presumably a different meal. Nick, the friendly owner, assured me the menu is evolving and within the next four weeks they’d be fully up to speed. If I still have an appetite after this challenge (and a respectable cholesterol level), I may have to return…

Score

Me: 7/10

Guest reviewers, the parents: 8/10.

Total 7.5/10. Very solid burger, lovely venue, great service. Recommended.